Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Winter swim

Today we noticed the winds had come around from the West and dropped a lot. La Gringa and I decided to grab a couple fishing rods, lures, snorkelling gear, and the new metal detector and take a boat ride. We trolled to one of the really old shipwreck sites we have found. Didn't get a single bite on the way over. The day had started out sunny, but by the time we got to our wreck site it was overcast. It cut the light a lot underwater, but the water was clear enough to get some photos.

This is looking over the side of the boat in about 15 ft. of water. It's hard to tell in the photo, but despite the cloudy sky, the water was pretty clear. You would never know there was a pile of ballast from probably the late 1600's here, would you?

I hopped overboard to set the anchor, then La Gringa managed to get into the water without repeating her bathing suit bungee jump experience. This is one of our underwater 'landmarks' for some of the places we have been searching:

I don't know what you call this particular thing, but its about 8 feet tall in total, and it sways in the surge of the waves going over, and it stings like all get-out if you brush your bare skin against it. So, mentally, I think of it as the "burning bush".

We took turns trying out the new metal detector. There were a number of problems we quickly discovered.

We need to tune the detector in the location where we are going to use it. In other words, right on the bottom. We were not doing that, because we did not take our compressor with us today. We were floating on the surface, then free-diving down to try to search the bottom. It was just no good. We both tried it off and on for about an hour:

I don't doubt the detector was working. It was warbling and chirping in the headphones all over the place, especially near the largest part of the ballast stone pile.

So while we hoped it would be simple, it isn't. We are going to take the detector to a beach with some coins and a few pieces of metal. We can practice tuning it in shallow water until we know what we are doing. We also now know it's a waste of time to try to bounce dive down and expect to do any kind of coherent bottom search. We are going to have to use the diving compressor (hookah) setup in order to do a good job. We need to be able to stay on the bottom for longer than a half minute or so. Struggling to stay down is also a problem.

Not long after I started looking around, I found another ancient bottle bottom from the wreck. This is pretty strange, because it was lying there right in the open in an area both of us have been over probably a hundred times visually searching. I can't believe we missed it on all of our previous trips to this site:

I had the camera in "movie mode" because I was trying to get a little video clip of that 'bush' moving back and forth in the swell. I got distracted when I saw this round shape on the bottom, but did keep the camera running while I picked it up:

About ten minutes after I found that piece of glass, La Gringa found the first ever bottle neck we have picked up here. This was also very strange. Both these pieces of glass were essentially at our anchoring/rallying point for this site. I find it pretty hard to believe both of us missed both pieces all those times. We have spent hours here, on clear, calm sunny days with crystal clear water. We think one of us would have seen these, but we didn't. Still, here's what they look like right now:

Obviously we haven't done a thing to clean them up yet. I can already tell that the bottle neck is a clear, light green glass under that crud. I can see bubbles in the glass, because of course it was hand made by a glass blower. What I am wondering is if Tropical Storm Noel churned things up out here and uncovered these two pieces. Maybe there are a few coins, or a neck chain, or even a brass buckle laying around here. Of course there is. The trick, as always, is finding it.

But even if we only picked up a couple pieces of some 300 year old bottles, it was fun. Just imagining the last hand to hold this bottle is always a thrill to us. Gold would be good, too.....I imagine. Maybe someday.

We swam around a bit, snapping a few more photos. This is part of the area we intend to search, only about ten feet down:

There's a small yellowtail in that photo, on the left side. The local guys love those.

It's difficult to spot things in the visual clutter of old coral and rock fragments. And everything on the bottom is covered with a fine silt, sand, or just generally encrusted with sea critters:

I am sure you can see why we wanted a metal detector for this hobby.

There were plenty of fish on the reef today. This is the side of the coral head that we think knocked the major hole in this particular boat. The ballast stone trail starts just on the other side of it.

When I swam by this spot about fifteen minutes later, there was a really nice sized Nassau Grouper up under that coral head, but I didn't have the camera with me. It was my turn with the detector.

I kept trying to get close to this school of fish, but they would circle that coral and keep it between them and me. So I never did get a good close shot of them:

It was as frustrating as chasing the dog around the coffee table when he doesn't want to be caught.

While I fiddled with the detector, La Gringa took the camera and went off chasing squid. She managed to get several shots similar to this:

And then our brandy new camera started messing up. We are getting a flashing error message that the cover is open. The cover is NOT open. If the cover was open, the camera would be full of salt water, and shorting out a lithium-ion battery. I would definitely not be posting these photos if the cover had been open. I have an uneasy feeling about the camera. This is not covered in the manual, and I am thinking it's something I need to send it back to a service center for. This brings up one of the not-so-great aspects of living on a small island. Do we spend a hundred dollars in shipping costs just to find out if this is warranty? And then another hundred to get it back even if Olympus fixes it free? That's gambling two hundred bucks in shipping costs on the chance they will fix a $ 300. camera. What if the fix is not free under warranty? You see the problem.

So, we are presently back to being without a walking around pocket camera again. I don't think we would buy another Olympus Stylus 770SW, if this kind of thing is going to happen. We DID get a lot of photos out of it in the 90 days since we bought it. But going forward, and from experience, I would stick with Sony.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just replied to your post on Tnet and thought I would check out your blog..Great Photos and looks to be a great site!! enjoy.
Good to meet ya.